• When Disaster Strikes

    Be Prepared

    Emergency Preparedness

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  • Occupational Health Disaster Expert Network (OHDEN) 

    Occupational health professionals, including physicians, nurses, industrial hygiene and safety professionals, constitute a health system that parallels the governmental public health program in dealing with critical disaster events. Their employer-focused expertise and training in public health is a rich resource to deal with every kind of exigency, including terrorism, infectious outbreak, meteorological catastrophe and geological crisis; all while balancing the employer’s need for work continuity and productive activity. To unify and coordinate these functions for disasters, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) are developing the Occupational Health Disaster Expert Network (OHDEN).

    Both the World Trade Center and the anthrax terrorist attacks in the fall of 2001 targeted workers in their employment. These events triggered a steep increase in expectations and opportunities for occupational health professionals to respond to the menace of workplace mass-casualty events. As mentioned, each of these professions is increasingly responsible to terror threats, meteorological catastrophe, and the threat of infectious epidemics.  OHDEN will be a closed electronic community for collaboration to better handle these obligations. 

    • Membership in the network will be open only to professionals with training, certification, membership and recognized responsibility in the key topics: occupational health nursing, medicine, hygiene or safety.
    • In anticipation of disaster, the network will offer shared documents for planning, training, reference, best-practice policies, as well as employee communications.
    • As a dynamic web-based tool, the network will provide links to established reference sites, including a peer-based critique and guides for optimum use. In anticipation of communications failure, the resource will also be distributed periodically for use by any isolated member.
    • At times of crisis, the network will provide urgent collaboration, rapid technical advice and opportunity to establish consensus and distributed professional judgment. Access to specific experts will be facilitated by an indexed biographical database of OHDEN members and consultants.
    • Ties to corresponding governmental authorities will allow alerts to be passed between agencies and employer-groups, even in urgent fashion before a crisis begins. Text messages, email alerts, and fax networks will provide flexible and robust linkages, with conference calls for discussion and streaming audio for time-shifted participation.

    OHDEN is being developed by the Occupational Health Advisory Committee (OH-AC), which is already established as the emergency preparedness-coordinating body between ACOEM and AAOHN.  Collaborative links with several Federal agencies have also been established, which provided initial support, including the Departments of Health & Human Services (DHHS Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness), the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC's NIOSH), as well as health & private infrastructure directed elements of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

    For more details on OHDEN, click here.

    For proof of concept (what OHDEN will be), the following resources on avian/pandemic flu preparedness provides four types of information:

    • Links to instructive materials and smart reference sites regarding either avian influenza H5N1, or to the concepts of pandemic influenza.
    • Aspects pertaining to care and prevention of worker issues regarding these topics (e.g., special workforce situations such as poultry and health care workers. 
    • Organizational needs regarding public health aspects or population concerns, including contingency management plans for major absenteeism and illness.
    • Plans and programs created by other professionals responsible for occupational and environmental health issues (e.g. spreadsheets, flow-charts, essays, ideas, and commentary).